Not Allowing for NC to Vote on a Statewide School Bond is Yet Another Way the NCGA is Hurting Public Schools

In this session of the North Carolina General Assembly, lawmakers roaming the halls of West Jones Street have produced some rather contradictory and antithetical pieces of legislation and ignored the very premise of a representative government: allowing the voice of the people to be heard.

This is especially true with issues on public education.

On May 16th, 20,000 teachers came to Raleigh in the largest single march and rally for public education and in response, the General Assemble decided to pass the budget for public education through a committee report rather than with debate and amendments.

This is the same NCGA

  • in which some have entertained having teachers carry weapons, but at the same time making them report to Raleigh every video they show in class to people who never have conducted a lesson plan;
  • that is limiting how much people affected by hog farm waste practices can sue big companies for but allows for pork-barrel spending that kills much needed bills (school psychologists) or directs money to districts in obvious campaign ploys (remember DonorsChoose.org);
  • that allows for vouchers to be used in unregulated private schools under the auspicies of “families know best for their children” but at the same time has members who want to drug test people who get other types of monetary aid used to buy food;
  • that wants to put an income tax cap on the ballot as a constitutional amendment but now wants to allow property taxes to be used for more school funding;
  • that has a bill to place “In God We Trust” in each school on a plaque when the very dollar bills they refuse to send to schools already has “In God We Trust” printed on them.

So it is not surprising that the NCGA is not even considering placing the state-wide school bond to help replace crumbling school buildings throughout the state even with a class-size mandate still lurks for next year.

Apple-BOND-1024x484

As reported by T. Keung Hui of the News & Observer today,

North Carolina residents are likely to vote this fall on amendments to change the state constitution, but they won’t get a chance to decide on funding for school construction.

Calls for a $1.9 billion statewide school construction bond referendum were among the demands made by the 19,000 teachers who marched in Raleigh in May. Advocates for the school bond say the state needs to step up because aging schools are crumbling around North Carolina and some communities are too poor to pay for their school needs.

But instead of a school bond, legislators are debating what constitutional amendments to put on the fall ballot before they leave Raleigh next week. Proposed amendments cover such topics as requiring voters to show ID, capping the state’s income tax rate, ensuring crime victims’ rights and guaranteeing the right to hunt and fish (http://amp.newsobserver.com/news/politics-government/article213525519.html?__twitter_impression=true).

Almost a fifth of the teaching force in the entire state came to Raleigh on May 16th demanding that the NCGA fully fund schools. This school bond issue was really a no-brainer. It simply would ask the North Carolina General Assembly to poll the state on whether it would want to fund a statewide school bond to help rebuild the infrastructure of the public school system, especially in areas that were most cash-strapped.

But the NCGA will not do that. That shows their priorities.

Ironic that the same day that state wide school bond referendum could have been voted on is also the same day that everybody in the NCGA is up for reelection.

 

The Failure of the NCGA to Address Lack of School Psychologists

When personalities are placed before principles, then people suffer.

When partisan politics are placed before the public good, then people suffer.

In the wake of the Parkland, FL school mass shooting, almost every state legislature at least brought forth legislation or formed a committee to suggest legislation to address how to stop the possibility of another occurrence in their schools.

In North Carolina, the House Select Committee on School Safety was convened to make suggestions and take action. One of revelations the committee realized was the absolute lack of school psychologists in the public school system. This was no secret. Most any school administrator could have told the North Carolina General Assembly that there was a severe shortage of school psychologists in our pubic schools.

In a session in which so much actions has been taken with an “urgency” not seen in years, one would think that an issue such as supplying school psychologists would have been one of the first pieces of legislation crafted.

Such is not the case.

Liz Schlemmer’s recent report on WRAL.com entitled “Post-Parkland bills to increase NC school psychologists appear stalled for this session” is further proof that many in Raleigh prioritize partisan politics more than helping schools. She reports:

Lawmakers focused on improving school safety for months have planned to address a significant shortage of school psychologists, but none of the related bills filed by legislators look like they are going anywhere during this legislative session.

“Everyone says we need more school psychologists in our schools for counseling, [to] keep our kids safe, all those good things,” said Representative Josh Dobson, who served on the House Select Committee on School Safety.

State representatives serving with him on that committee – convened just after the Parkland, Fla., shooting – have often said that improving mental health services in schools is part of the battle for safer schools. And North Carolina is facing a shortage of school psychologists who are on the frontline. Experts say the high number of students per psychologists in public schools is making it hard for them to do their jobs effectively (https://www.wral.com/post-parkland-bills-to-increase-nc-school-psychologists-appear-stalled-for-this-session/17644256/?version=amp&__twitter_impression=true).

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credit: wral.com

And why did no piece of legislation come out of this session to help address the lack of school psychologists?

Partisan politics. Pure and simple.

Schlemmer further reports:

One bill proposed by House Republicans, including Dobson, would have streamlined the process for hiring school psychologists who have a national board certification. That would make it easier to license and hire qualified psychologists, especially those who move from other states. Experts say the state’s non-competitive pay is also an issue for recruitment – but that the proposed licensing change would help combat the shortage.

The proposal had broad support, and passed unanimously in the House, but the bill failed after the Senate tacked on a controversial and unrelated healthcare provision. Then the Senate stalled the House’s attempts to resurrect the psychology provision in another bill about licensing regulation in various industries. That bill did not make it past the legislature’s self-imposed deadline to send all statewide bills to the governor’s desk.

A session that passed a budget with a nuclear option and has put forth a number of constitutional amendments for November and has held meetings and votes until the wee hours of the night refused to even make more school psychologists in public schools a reality.

That’s a shame.

 

 

 

The Top 10 Educational Issues in NC So Far in 2018

2018 is halfway over. Traditional public schools in North Carolina are on summer breaks and the North Carolina General Assembly is busily crafting legislation that deeply affects those very schools.

This past December, this blog published a post that outlined the top ten educational issues from 2017 that needed attention in 2018. Aside from the fact that only nine were published and that #3 magically never appeared, those items are still in play here in June of 2018 (https://caffeinatedrage.com/2017/12/29/the-top-10-public-education-issues-from-2017-that-need-our-attention-in-2018/).

But this is an election year and some other issues (mostly related) are at play. With NC General Assembly elections in November and hotly contested policies in public education, some new issues might need close attention this summer and fall.

So, here is a subjective list of possibly the 10 most important issues in 2018 so far.

  1. May 16th’s Teacher March and Rally

Over 20,000 people went to Raleigh. Over 40 of the state’s 115 school districts were shut down. Many people in Raleigh claimed that it was the largest protest ever in the capital city. Ironically, shortly after, the NCGA decided to pass the budget through a committee report and not a bill.

2. Nuclear Option on Passing the Budget

After thousands of teachers and education advocates marched on Raleigh on May 16th calling for better treatment of public schools, the GOP super-majority invoked what is akin to a “nuclear” option in passing its budget. Rather than allowing for debate on matters of money from elected representatives and the opportunity of amendments, Phil Berger and Tim Moore had the budget voted on in committee.

Simply put, there was no democratic process in the passing of the budget.

3. HB 514

This bill was enabled with a provision that allows for cities to use property tax money to fund local schools. It also allows for cities and towns to establish their own charter schools with enrollment preference for their citizens using taxpayer money. But it goes much deeper than that: it has the potential to raise everyone’s property taxes to pay for charter schools and other state mandates like the class size bill. Most importantly, it has the ability promote systemic segregation.

4. Cap on Income Tax Rates – TABOR LITE

GOP leaders in the North Carolina General Assembly have pushed in the past and are now making a proposal to place a constitutional amendment on the November ballot that would cap the income tax rate a 5.5% (currently it is 10%). That proposal is a political tourniquet, pure and simple. And just as limited blood flow would cause harm to the skeletal system in a growing body, this measure would cause our state’s infrastructure to slowly suffer when streams of revenue are compromised by a body bent on lowering corporate tax rates even more.

Makes that property tax provision a little more suspicious.

5. Class Size Chaos and HB13

It is no big secret that the claims made by Chad Barefoot, Phil Berger, and others that the class size mandate had already been funded were false. The class size mandate did receive a reprieve for a year this past spring, but it will be an issue that comes around again next year. At risk are how many new teachers, classrooms, and resources will be needed to fulfill the mandate as it is now worded and if “specials” like arts and P.E. will still be on the chopping block.

What makes this an especially interesting issue is that the provision in the budget to allow property taxes to be used to fund schools might be leveraged by the NCGA to make the mandate happen.

6. Virtual Charter Schools

Please do not confuse North Carolina’s Public Virtual School with the virtual charter schools financed by the state as well. They are completely different entities. The public virtual school has traction and much credibility. The two virtual CHARTER schools in NC are two of the lowest ranking schools in the state but are two of the most enabled.

In this year’s spring session, the NCGA extended the pilot window for the state’s two virtual charter schools by another four years. That’s a total of eight years. No explanation for the reason given at all.

7. Still %16 Below the National Average

Despite the rhetoric coming from the NCGA that passed a budget with a nuclear option teacher salary in NC is still no closer to national average for teacher pay.

In 2017 the average teacher pay in North Carolina was %16 behind the national average. In 2018 the average teacher pay in NC was STILL %16 behind the national average.

8. Red Herring Bills

Consider Rep. Justin Burr’s bill in the General Assembly to force local school boards to provide a list of all movies shown in any classroom in the district to the state superintendent’s office. It’s a bogus bill meant to draw attention away from the fact that Burr’s party has passed a budget that never underwent debate or amendments and clearly is less of a benefit for public schools than what Gov. Cooper proposed.

In May, four NC members of the Congressional Prayer Caucus Foundation introduced a bill to place a plaque with the words “In God We Trust” in every school in a prominent place.

Combined, both would cost taxpayers nearly a quarter of a million dollars.

9. Elections

For the first time in recent history, it seems that every NC General Assembly race for senate and house representatives is a contested one. With redrawn districts and voter-ID laws still being pushed through the current session, the fact that many incumbents are facing stiff challenges in their elections is indicative of the polarizing nature of how Raleigh has done its legislating.

10. Mark Johnson

This year, Johnson won a lawsuit over “control” of DPI. That only emphasizes the non-public way he has handled the office of helping “public” schools.

He never spoke against budget cuts given by the current NCGA that hurts DPI. He has spent money to hire people only loyal to him in DPI when in fact there were seasoned public servants already fulfilling those duties. He spent a million dollars to audit DPI to find those “wasteful” dollars being spent only to find out that DPI was underfunded to begin with.

Yes, there are far many more issues that could be on this list:

  • ISD
  • Per Pupil Expenditures
  • Statewide School Bond

And the list goes on.

But the most important aspect is that all of these issues should encourage North Carolinians to VOTE in November.

Teachers Should Be Political

vote

In the state of North Carolina, over 56% of the state budget is dedicated to public education, most of which goes to K-12 (and pre-K) education.

It’s specifically stated in Article IX of the state constitution that the state establish a free and viable means of educating school age-children.

Sec. 2.  Uniform system of schools.

(1)        General and uniform system: term.  The General Assembly shall provide by taxation and otherwise for a general and uniform system of free public schools, which shall be maintained at least nine months in every year, and wherein equal opportunities shall be provided for all students.

That alone makes education a political issue.

If lawmakers, especially those with the most power in Raleigh today, control the fate of funding and measuring public schools, then it is impossible to separate politics and public education.

And with the elections coming in November under the shadow of gerrymandering and a Voter ID law as well as a budget rammed through with a nuclear option, it almost begs for any public school teacher or advocate to do something that sounds like taboo to some: becoming political.

When 20,000 teachers and public education supporters marched and rallied in Raleigh on May 16th, they didn’t go to the offices of the Department of Public Instruction; they went to the General Assembly because that is where policy is decided.

Those who decide and craft policy tend to look at education from the outside in. It has been no secret that much of the educational “reform” that has occurred in this state has been without much (if any) teacher input. And many of those same lawmakers who are up for reelection this November have taken actions to lessen the power of collective teacher voices: career status and due-process rights removed and lack of graduate degree pay bumps to name just a few. Those are political actions.

When NCAE was targeted by the NCGA on its automatic deduction of dues from paychecks it was a political move to lessen the strength of the largest teacher advocacy group in this right-to-work state.

Education simply is clothed by politics.

So when somebody says that teachers should not be political, then that person needs to explain how a teacher cannot be political and still advocate for schools and students. In fact, this teacher would say that all public school teachers and advocates should be very political this election year.

This state has a wide gap in the urban / rural divide. Actually, it’s not wide; it’s expansive. To say that all of the public school teachers in this state have the same partisan leanings is foolish. This state has about as (roughly speaking) as many people registered as democrats as republicans with a healthy dose of independents. North Carolina is about as purple as it gets. In 2016, over 10,000 people who voted for Donald Trump as President also voted for Roy Cooper to be governor.

And everyone has a stake in public education whether it is directly as a parent or student or employee of the school system or as a taxpayer.

Education is political. But it hasn’t always been this partisan.

Write a blog or a bunch of op-eds and you will receive criticism in many forms. Some of it will be negative and personal and because you argue against what Raleigh is doing with public education you may be tagged with partisan labels.

That’s fine. Teach public school long enough and you will come across lots of criticism of the occupation and the perceived performance of our schools. Actually constructive criticism might be one of the best gifts anyone can receive.

It’s funny that decades ago, public education was championed by both democrats and republicans alike. Think of governors like Holshousher and Martin and you will see a commitment to funding public education like NC saw with Sanford, Hunt, and Easley. The governor’s office and the General Assembly were often in different hands politically speaking, but on the issue of public education, they stood much more united than it is today.

 

The surest way to advocate for public schools is to make sure that those who are in power as politicians are pro-public education, not just with their words, but with their actions. That’s politics.

Education is a political issue.

Teachers and public school advocates should be political as well; therefore, vote.

 

“Lord, What Fools These Mortals Be” – What Shakespeare Teaches Us About Education Reform in North Carolina

400 years since he died. Four centuries. Multiple generations. New countries discovered.

And we still read his work and revere it as a mirror of human nature.

shakespeare

There is a bit of a revival taking place in some schools involving Shakespeare. The Common Core asks that student in each grade level come engage with Shakespeare in their English/Language Arts classes. Many high schools in North Carolina teach a Shakespeare elective (which is very popular in my own school).

But why does he still resonate with new generations? Simple. Shakespeare literally provides us with a blueprint for the human condition and the nature of men and women.

And I think the Bard would have much to say about our treatment of public education here in North Carolina, whose own capital was named for a man who was favored one time by the very woman who patronized Shakespeare.

In fact, he already has made statements very relevant to our state and, frankly, the entire nation.

“The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves.”

Cassius, he of the “lean and hungry” look, says this to Brutus in Julius Caesar. And while many may know that this gives rise to the title of the John Green book, it makes reference to the Elizabethan tendency to look at astrology and numerology for guidance.

It also talks of taking responsibility for your actions and how those actions may affect others.

Consider the effects of “re-forms” initiated by business groups, billionaires, and legislators like unregulated charter schools and vouchers that have siphoned public monies from the very students who rely upon traditional public schools. When will they learn that these initiatives do not work and have never worked? Will they take responsibility for their failures or blame the stars?

“Be not afraid of greatness. Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and others have greatness thrust upon them.” 

These lines are from Twelfth Night spoken by Malvolio while reading a letter meant as a practical joke to feed his narcissism and fragile ego. However, there is so much truth in these words.

Think about how we as a society define “greatness,” yet remember that each person is free to interpret “greatness” in his/her own way. But the operative word in this quote is “achieve.” And there is no limit to what a student can achieve if our schools are properly funded and our teachers are supported by government officials. And just imagine how greatness would be defined.

“Love all, trust a few, do wrong to none.” 

The Countess in All’s Well That Ends Well says this to her son. If only our legislators and lawmakers all took this to heart. It would seem appropriate to also include Polonius’s words to his son Laertes in Hamlet, “To thine own self be true.” But Polonius’s motives throughout the play show that he really is nothing more than a government official bent on maintaining power and bending precedent.

“The fool doth think he is wise, but the wise man knows himself to be a fool.” 

This is said by Touchstone, the court jester in the Arden Woods in As You Like It. What’s appropriate here is that it is the fool talking about a fool. It would be refreshing to think that those in power would even admit that their actions could actually be foolish and hurtful.

So many in Raleigh have been so dead set on their “solutions” (think Innovative School District) that they foolishly ignore what history has taught us.

“We know what we are, but not what we may be.”

As Ophelia’s madness starts to set in during the last part of Hamlet, she says this poignant quote to Claudius, who as a man in power has literally kept others from realizing their potential. Claudius is so busy with the past and the immediate present that he does not realize that he is sacrificing the future for all in his kingdom.

Sound familiar?

“If you prick us, do we not bleed? If you tickle us, do we not laugh? If you poison us, do we not die? And if you wrong us, shall we not revenge?”

This is from Shylock’s astounding monologue from Merchant of Venice as he explains that he as a Jew is discriminated against and that as a human he not treated as equally as others.

Considering that we have private schools which take Opportunity Grant monies and have admissions policies that do not allow for equal opportunity and that we also still have a law on the books called HB2, Shylock’s words are still so applicable.

“Go wisely and slowly. Those who rush stumble and fall.”

Friar Laurence, a man of great intentions doomed by the fact that he is in a tragic play (Romeo & Juliet), says this to Romeo trying to teach him that rushing into actions without proper vetting can lead to mistakes and irreparable damage.

Again, sound familiar?

“Ignorance is the curse of God; knowledge is the wing wherewith we fly to heaven.”

A character named Saye “says” this in Henry VI, Part 2 which is not read by many people but was a popular play of Shakespeare’s while he lived.

Think about how much could have been saved if our lawmakers really researched their “re-forming” efforts before rashly enacting them.

“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.”

If you read Romeo & Juliet closely, you will see that Juliet is the intellectual one of the two. And she is right with this quote on so many levels. Calling NC’s “Opportunity Grants” as a road to provide quality education doesn’t change the fact that they are weak vouchers. Calling charter schools “public schools” doesn’t change that fact that they act under a different set of rules than traditional schools. Calling the new Innovative School District a means to fix failing schools doesn’t change the fact that it is a movement to privatize public education.

That “rose” still smells.

“Lord, what fools these mortals be.”

Robin Goodfellow, otherwise known as Puck, the henchman for the king of the fairies (Oberon), makes this poignant observation while watching the hilarious circus of humans in the forest during Midsummer Night’s Dream.

Makes you wonder how we will see these reform efforts and their effects when all of this is said and done.

But if you really understand Shakespeare, you know that his plays were so accessible to all Elizabethan people, especially those in the working classes and those who were not given opportunities to receive schooling. He spoke to all people.

Quality public schooling should be as accessible as Shakespeare was and still is.

District 30 – Mangrum Vs. Berger: Maybe the Most Important General Assembly Race in the State Concerning Public Education

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If you braved the cold temps in January and attended the Class Size Chaos Rally in Raleigh, you probably ran into Jen Mangrum. She was there to lend support.

If you came to the May 16th Rally and March, then you probably came within feet of her. She was there.

Mangrum is an educator. In fact, she is an educator of educators and is the daughter of … yes … educators. In the times that I have been in her company, I have found her accessible, compassionate, and straightforward.

She is the candidate whom Phil Berger will not debate. Even when his current district map was not declared gerrymandered, it was redrawn to exclude the part with Guilford County to include three red-leaning counties.

Recently, a judicial board ruled her ineligible to run in District 30. Supposedly a challenge was issued on her residency by a rather eager “resident.” Reading about what happened in the initial judicial board hearing seemed more like a script from a movie. She is appealing the decision and is willing to go to the state Supreme Court.

A recent News & Observer  article entitled “Much feared Sen. Berger faces a fearless newcomer” by Ned Barnett gives a glimpse into what might be the most important state election this year.

It surely shows that Berger is not as untouchable as he appeared to be at one time.

When 20,000 public school teachers and advocates showed up in Raleigh on May 16th, Berger and Tim Moore pushed the budget into a “nuclear” option to keep any debate and amendments from entering the process. Many speculate that it was because Berger and Moore wanted to avoid having to talk about public education openly.

Now a teacher is after his seat in the NC General Assembly.

Per Barnett:

Berger’s office did not respond to a request for comment, but aspects of this race make him look like the skittish one. Mangrum announced her intention to challenge him more than a year ago, but when a new court-ordered map of legislative districts was unveiled in August of 2017, the Guilford County portion of Berger’s district – the portion where Mangrum lived – was gone.

Mangrum, the daughter of a Marine who served in three wars, decided to take the fight to Berger. She rented a home in Reidsville inside the newly-drawn District 30 and, having recently separated from her husband, declared Reidsville her new home a month before the Feb. 28 filing deadline (http://amp.newsobserver.com/opinion/article213216689.html).

To say that Phil Berger is the most powerful politician in North Carolina is not an overstatement to many people. But he seems to want to avoid Mangrum. She has openly invited him to debate. He has not responded.

If you can in any way, please support Jen Mangrum and all of the other pro-public education candidates like Terri LeGrand and Natasha Marcus.

 

mangrum-logo275

 

 

About That NBC News Report On Charter Schools and Segregation

In the past few weeks, much attention has been focused in North Carolina around HB514, the municipalities charter school bill championed by Bill Brawley which will allow four predominantly white, affluent cities within Mecklenburg County to finance their own charter schools and give preference to their own students.

Those students would attend “local” charter schools and not the traditional public schools within the Charlotte-Mecklenburg School System.

charterschool

It does not take much deductive reasoning to see that HB514 will enable a backdoor path to further segregation in CMS. Anyone arguing to the contrary under the guise of “school choice” would need a very compelling argument.

When a charter opens in a locality, it will no doubt have an effect on the educational terrain of many schools, especially if the charter school is not tightly regulated or governed while using tax payer money.

Consider a recent NBC news story that aired on June 17th dealing with a small charter school in rural Georgia called Lake Oconee Academy (https://www.nbcnews.com/news/education/it-s-black-white-thing-how-some-elite-charter-schools-n878656).

Lake Oconee Academy is located in a small town called Greensboro, GA. It has approximately 3,500 residents. Located almost halfway between Atlanta and Augusta on I-20, Greensboro also is home to part of the Lake Oconee resorts.

greensboro_ga

Lake Oconee is a man-made lake constructed by Georgia Power. In a pine-tree laden area, the new lake made several miles of lake coast property all of a sudden much desired acreage. Developments ensued, golf courses were erected, and out-of-county money came into the local economy. LOTS OF IT.

This information is readily available in the NBC report which is based on a Hechinger Report article, but there is a big reason this blog is focusing on this particular segment.

greensboro2credit: Terrell Clark / The Hechinger Report

See that picture? I know that sight well.

Because I grew up in Greensboro, GA.

Family has been there for generations. That street sign? Been to all of those places as well – many times. Madison is known for being a town spared by Sherman’s March. Many antebellum structures there still stand. Eatonton is home to Joel Chandler Harris and Alice Walker. Harris is famous for the Uncle Remus stories. Walker wrote The Color Purple.

And Athens is where the University of Georgia is located.

None of that changes the fact that Lake Oconee Academy has a demographic makeup that is highly different than the demographic makeup of the town that it supposedly services. It’s that way in many charter schools.

From the NBC report:

The school’s halls and classrooms are bright and airy, with high ceilings and oversize windows looking out across the lush landscape. There is even a terrace on which students can work on warm days. After a guide pointed out several science labs, the tour paused at the “piano lab.” The room holds 25 pianos, 10 of them donated by residents of the nearby exclusive communities. The guide also noted that starting in elementary school, all students take Spanish, art and music classes. The high school, which enrolls less than 200 students, offers 17 Advanced Placement courses.

Lake Oconee’s amenities are virtually unheard of in rural Georgia; and because it is a public school, they are all available at the unbeatable price of free.

 

Conspicuously absent from the open house were African-American parents. Of the dozen or so prospective families in attendance, all were white except for one South Asian couple. At Lake Oconee Academy, 73 percent of students are white. Down the road at Greene County’s other public schools, 12 percent of students are white and 68 percent are black; there isn’t a piano lab and there are far fewer AP courses.

Lake Oconee Academy is a charter school. Charters are public schools, ostensibly open to all. The idea behind charters was to loosen rules and regulations that might hinder innovation, allowing them to hire uncertified teachers for example. But dozens of charters have also used their greater flexibility to limit which kids make it through the schoolhouse doors — creating exclusive, disproportionately white schools.

That last sentence might need to be changed to “creating exclusive, disproportionately white PUBLIC schools.”

And that sounds a lot like what HB 514 here in NC would do – WITH PUBLIC MONEY.

Look at the on-air report. It’s eye-opening.

When unregulated charter schools open without proper oversight and without taking action to ensure equity, then what seems to be happening in my hometown will constantly be replicated in a deliberate fashion. Whether it is in the largest city in North Carolina or a small town in rural Georgia which has only one high school that serves the entire county, the effects on the local public school system can be detrimental.

In fact, many lawmakers in Raleigh are counting on it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

North Carolina Faith Leaders for Public Education – Using the Good Book To Support Public Schools

When Duke University’s Children’s Law Center’s released its March 2017 report called SCHOOL VOUCHERS IN NORTH CAROLINA : THE FIRST THREE YEARS one of the most glaring aspects of the program was how many vouchers were being used at religiously affiliated schools.

Some of the observations of the study included:

  • Approximately 93% of the vouchers have been used to pay tuition at religious schools (3).
  • The North Carolina voucher program is well designed to promote parental choice, especially for parents who prefer religious education for their children (3).
  • Of the participating schools, less than 20% were secular schools; more than 80% were religious schools. This does not line up exactly with the percentages of vouchers used at religious schools versus secular schools (93% at religious schools), because several religious schools enrolled large numbers of students (8).

The entire report can be found here:  https://law.duke.edu/childedlaw/School_Vouchers_NC.pdf.

Many public school advocates, especially the teacher who writes this blog, have argued that the Opportunity Grants are a detriment to public schools in that it takes public money meant for public schools and gives it to private, unregulated entities which can practice admission standards that would never be allowed in public schools and can offer curricula that is not aligned with preparing students for 21st success.

It also strikes this teacher that 93% of vouchers used in NC when the Duke study was published goes to entities that are affiliated with churches and are probably housed in churches that do not have to give tax dollars due to religious exemptions.

In Texas, there is a group of religious leaders who have formed a rather formidable presence in the state called Pastors for Texas Children (http://pastorsfortexaschildren.com/). And they are pro-public education! And they have been very influential. Dr. Diane Ravitch frequently talks of them in her iconic blog. They are against vouchers and other efforts of privatization. And they are active.

Apparently, North Carolina is seeing a similar movement. It’s called North Carolina Faith Leaders for Public Education. From a recent article:

The group’s mission is to address problems such as underfunded public schools and programs. 

Allison Mahaley chairs the organization’s public education committee and says the hope is the needs faith communities currently address can be dealt with at their root.

“What we want them to do is to keep doing that work, but to also realize that unless we advocate for changes in the public school at the policy level, there’s no end to the charity that will be required,” she states (https://www.publicnewsservice.org/2018-06-18/education/the-good-book-supports-public-education-say-church-leaders/a62926-1).

They even have a billboard on I-40 near Faison:

Hosea

Amen!

 

The NC General Assembly’s Ploy to Pass the Burden of Funding State School Mandates to Local Systems

Remember when Sen. Chad Barefoot said this in February of 2017 concerning House Bill 13?

For years, the General Assembly has been sending tens of millions of dollars to districts for new classroom teachers for the purpose of lowering classroom sizes,” he said. “The question we keep asking over and over again is, ‘What did they do with the money? …The data that we have received from the districts varies, and some districts did not fully respond to our information request. What some of the data has shown is that there are districts that did not reduce class sizes with the funding we sent them. Why are they holding art and PE teachers’ jobs hostage for their misallocation of classroom teacher funds?” (http://www.wral.com/law-reducing-class-size-has-music-art-pe-teachers-anxious-about-future-/16628678/).

House Bill 13 concerned the “class size mandate.” Even Phil Berger and Tim Moore said it had been “funded,” but neither could point to a line item in the budget for it.

A one-year reprieve was established but it will make its way back into the political landscape soon, probably in a special session called for one matter but is really meant to pass secretly crafted legislation.

With the exiting tax cuts slated in the 2018-2019 budget never debated or amended, corporate tax rates will again drop and with a push to lower the cap of income tax rates (TABOR) during certain times, what the NCGA seems to be doing is making sure that it does not have the revenue needed to fully fund social services like public education. Throw in the “surplus” in the “rainy-day” fund, the growth of revenue does not meet the demand for funds to adequately.

Look at the following:

GDP

GDP data is from the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis. Spending is from the Digest of Educational Statistics, Table 236.25 (https://nces.ed.gov/programs/digest/d17/tables/dt17_236.25.asp) – assist from Kris Nordstrom.

So, less money in relation to need is being spent and state-enforced initiatives like the class size mandate and other endeavors like charter school growth but a need to finance such things and we get… pass the burden to localities.

Nestled in the last few pages of the surreptitiously crafted and secretly negotiated budget is Section 38.8.

propertytax

That’s the place where the NCGA was able to put in a way for local property taxes to be used in funding of local schools within city limits. As Billy Ball reported on May 30th,

No, the real stunner came in a three-page provision starting on page 257 that authorizes North Carolina municipalities to spend property tax revenues on any public school that “benefits the residents of the city,” including charter schools. It’s a massive, and little debated, overhaul of the state’s longtime funding method that has the potential to drastically alter K-12 funding, and not for the better, advocates say (http://www.ncpolicywatch.com/2018/05/30/education-budget-shocker-could-alter-the-fundamentals-of-nc-school-funding/).

Think about something like the class size mandate. This provision could now be used by the state to absolve itself from “funding” certain initiatives and say that the localities can use their property taxes to raise the funds.

It also opens the door up for God-knows what else.

Fighting to make sure funding is there for state mandates may now be done in each LEA rather than in Raleigh.

Seems the urban / rural divide may get bigger. And it’s intentional.

Combating The North Carolina General Assembly’s Fear Of A Well-Educated General Public – Voting in November Helps

(1) General and uniform system: term. The General Assembly shall provide by taxation and otherwise for a general and uniform system of free public schools, which shall be maintained at least nine months in every year, and wherein equal opportunities shall be provided for all students.  – NC State Constitution.

There is one thing that the current powers in the North Carolina General Assembly fear most.

It is not unclean water.
It is not a budget deficit.
It sure as hell isn’t climate change.
It’s not even maps, although all of those weigh in the equation.

It is having a well-educated general public – one that would not allow current lawmakers to be in a position of power to continue to promote an agenda that absolutely favors a few over those they should be helping. And their actions over these last four to five years have been a recipe in ensuring their policies remain intact.

Many of those have been very apparent. There is the current debacle of gerrymandered legislative districts. Even the redrawn maps have shown a more-than-obsessive addiction to hold on to majorities in Raleigh.

There is the voter-ID law that was struck down in the judicial system. A determined effort to water down minority voices might have been one of the most open secrets in this state.

But those unconstitutional actions coincided with other egregious acts that have weakened public education to a breaking point – one that makes next year’s elections so very important. Those actions have been assaults on public schools coated with a layer of propaganda that keeps telling North Carolinians that we need to keep reforming public education.

What once was considered one of the most progressive and strongest public school systems in the South and the nation all of a sudden needed to be reformed? What necessitated that? Who made that decision? Look to the lawmakers who saw public education and the allotted budgeting for public education dictated by the state constitution as an untapped reservoir of money to funnel to private entities.

The public started to see test scores that appeared to be less than desirable even though what was being tested and the format of the testing was in constant flux.

The public started to see “school performance grades” that did nothing more than track how poverty affected student achievement. The “schools were failing” to actually help cover up what lawmakers were refusing to do to help people before they even had a chance to succeed in the classroom.

The teaching profession was beginning to be shaped by a business model that does not discern a public service from a profit minded investment scheme which changed a profession of professionals into one that favors short term contractors.

But there are two large indicators that voters in North Carolina should really pay attention to when it comes to the NCGA’s relentless pursuit to quell their fears of a well-educated general public – money spent per pupil and tuition costs to state supported universities.

Below is one of many different data tables that shows how willfully the NCGA has made sure to keep public schools from thriving (from  the NC Justice Center’s July 2016 analysis).

Inflation-Adjusted-2

And how that per pupil expenditure truly affects schools becomes even clearer when you read reporting that clearly shows how funds are used (and stretched) by school systems. Take Kris Nordstrom’s piece entitled “As new school year commences, shortage of basic supplies demonstrates legislature’s failure to invest” (http://www.ncpolicywatch.com/2017/08/29/new-school-year-commences-shortage-basic-supplies-demonstrates-legislatures-failure-invest/).

This table should be easy to decipher.

supplies

Simply put, this is a great example of truth-telling and an equally fantastic exposure of the very fear that the NCGA has of thriving public schools. Nordstrom states,

“When adjusting for enrollment and inflation, school funding has been cut in the following areas since leadership of the General Assembly switched hands in 2010 (a time period in which the state was already struggling to find resources as a result of the Great Recession): classroom teachers, instructional support personnel (counselors, nurses, librarians, etc.), school building administrators (principals and assistant principals), teacher assistants, transportation, low wealth schools, disadvantaged students, central office, limited English proficiency, academically gifted, small counties, driver training, and school technology. Funding streams for teacher professional development and mentoring of beginning teachers have been eliminated completely.”

  • Don’t we have a state surplus?
  • Don’t we spend millions on validate vouchers that have shown no improvement in student outcome?
  • Don’t we spend millions in legal fees defending laws that are unconstitutional?

The answer is “YES” to all of these.

Remember, our lawmakers are bragging that we are economically thriving. So who is profiting?

The Pew Research Center for U.S. Politics & Policy conducted a national survey on the attitudes on whether higher education has had a positive or negative effect on our country (http://www.people-press.org/2017/07/10/sharp-partisan-divisions-in-views-of-national-institutions/). It’s rather disturbing.

More disturbing is that it is not surprising.

PP_17.06.30_institutions_lede_party

While one might think that Joel Osteen’s antics to protect his tax exempt megachurch from actually serving the Houston public in a Christ-like fashion during the devastating 2017hurricane would change the first set of data points, it is the last category that is the focus here.

Inside Higher Ed highlighted the Pew survey. Paul Fain in his report opened up with this:

“In dramatic shift, more than half of Republicans now say colleges have a negative impact on the U.S., with wealthier, older and more educated Republicans being least positive”(https://www.insidehighered.com/news/2017/07/11/dramatic-shift-most-republicans-now-say-colleges-have-negative-impact).

Might want to see who controls policy in Raleigh.

And those “wealthier, older, and more educated Republicans” who are in control in Raleigh have also enabled state-supported colleges and universities to become more expensive.

At the beginning of last year, WUNC published a report called “Incoming UNC Students Likely To See Tuition Increase” (http://wunc.org/post/incoming-unc-students-likely-see-tuition-increase#stream/0). In it there is a data table that shows the steady and steep increase in tuition costs for UNC undergraduate resident tuition.

tution_increases_through_the_years

And yes, we are still a bargain compared to other states, but that is an over 70% increase that does not include housing, board, food, supplies, books, travel, and all of the other expenses sure to accompany a college experience.

Is it supposed to make sense that rising tuition costs should accompany lower per-pupil expenditure in public secondary schools all the while boasting of a state surplus in a state that currently has racially gerrymandered legislative districts and an increased investment in a rather robust effort to privatize public schools?

Apparently “yes” to many in Raleigh.

Which is why they say “no” so often to people.